In spite of several voices expressing their dissent for undermining the Parliament and thereby the constitution of this country and despite the skepticism about a movement of this nature, people raising cudgels against the maddening crowds engulfing the Institution and vehement protest of teaming millions trying to settle the laws of this country in the streets, one wily old man of 74, with his burning righteous indignation evoked the entire country and bulldozed into the mighty law making citadel leaving no option to it except to give in to his demands. They did give in, however, not with a majority voice vote as envisaged and expected, but by thumping of the desks, an apology to the ordained method. One can hear a few disgruntled voices in the house, a few twitching eyebrows, another few with petulant and sullen composures allowed a grudging compromise to diffuse the volatile situation. The two major parties made all the right noises while the discomfiture of other minor voices were either submerged or engulfed in the din.
A politician is one who perfects the art of saying “yes’’ while he meant an unequivocal “no’’, while a diplomat deliberates with a cool “no’’, as he ponders whether he can accommodate a “yes’’. There are about 540 of the former hue in the august house. While millions across the country celebrated it as a victory of the people, Narendra Modi went even a little further to compare it with the peaceful movement of the Independent era. A few others sang homilies, spoke about patriotism with choked voices and moistened eyes. The melodrama is palpable- though for good reasons.
Medha Patkar, the lone team member of Anna, who tasted betrayal more than once in the hands of the establishment was guarded when she said: “I will continue myself to join the party and will not say much at this historical time when people’s power is at its peek’’.
There was a lone voice- only one- which was candid, categorical and even emphatic. That was Anna Hazare, who said that this is only half of the victory and there is even a bigger impediment to face. A battle is won, but there is a war ahead.
The congress spokesperson claimed that this is not a victory of the teaming millions and a bow down of the government- but a win-win situation. I have no doubt that this statement is fully loaded and one should be able to read the fine print to understand the meaning between the lines.
Sometime back, I did a cameo role in a film “Leader’’. It was a two scene appearance and I never thought much about it. But, surprisingly the character was a big hit and it caught the imagination of many viewers. I often wondered why. And slowly the realization dawned on me. Here is the character. A senior politician- who was an ardent follower of Mahatma in his early days, practiced the crafty side of the political know how and became seasoned. He is so senior that he could call the Chief Minister by his first name. When CM tries to push a bill in the assembly (almost exactly on the lines of the present Lok Pal bill) bringing everybody to book-including the members of the house, all the hell is let loose in the house. When the young CM is baffled, this politician says in confidence:”Which school taught you your basics?How the hell do you think that this house would approve a bill that sends most of them to jail? Exclude them from its purview and see what happens’’. CM does exactly that and the house says “Yes’’ in one voice.
I have no doubt that this scene has a relevance to the present situation in the Parliament. I will explain the reasons for this prevarication.
In July 2008, Washington Post reported that nearly a fourth of the 540 Indian Parliament members faced criminal charges,”including human trafficking, immigration rackets, embezzlement, rape and even murder’’. A whopping sum of 20 lakh crores has been drained out of this country between 1948 and 2008. We have at least 4 serving MPs sent to Tihar jail by this very government , for scandals never heard in the history of this nation. Then, we have any number of Dayanidhi Marans,Madhu Khodas, Thomases, Sens etc.etc. And this country has a unique history of shelving this Lok Pal bill ten times-during 1968,1971,1977,1985,1996,1998,2001,2005 and 2008. If as the senior politician in “Leader’’(that is, me)said in the movie- all the 120 members will end up in jail when once this bill becomes law. What is more, they don’t belong to a single party. Every party has a share in this exalted list..
Suffice to quote one instance, as told by Arvind Kejriwal at a meeting in Chennai IIT- an official of the National Highway Authority of the rank of an additional secretary was raided by CBI and found huge amounts of unaccounted money. But they have to take permission from his boss Kamalnath, Minister for Surface Transport to file a case against him. What happened? The permission was NOT granted and the official enjoyed the benefit of doubt. Not a single case against any official in the Government was taken to the court, in spite of several instances provided by Vigilance Commission with evidences, because the government slept on these cases, with a mild reprimand to the concerned officer. National Vigilance Commissioner N.Vittal said once that corruption in this country is high profit zero risk business. In the last couple of years at least 13 RTI activists were murdered. Their only crime was whistle blowing.
I may sound cynical as I say this, but it is better to be cynical and realsitic than being unrealistic pretending to be prudent.
Having wriggled out of a tricky corner, without causing much harm, the parliament will have all its cards sorted out for the standing committee and sitting law making body to sleep on it for the 11th time. Anna, while rejoicing with his fellow members at the first taste of success, might be having a gut feeling that there is every need for a third fast, and very soon too.
Yes, the battle is half won, but whether the other half will be won by the people or the politicians is anybody’s guess.
Shocked? I will quote yet another example:Women’s reservation bill.